See inside Sunderland's newest restaurant waiting to open after Lockdown

Sunderland’s newest restaurant is ready and waiting to welcome drinkers and diners once restrictions are eased.

Saturday, 23rd January 2021, 7:00 am

Spent Grain has been a labour of love for chef Michael Jameson and business partner Julie Gibson who’ve converted an empty unit in John Street into a sleek, city centre restaurant aimed at catering for all.

Once allowed to open when restrictions are lifted, the site will be a multi-purpose restaurant, open seven days a week, serving everything from coffees in the morning to business lunches and evening meals crafted from local produce.

The business will also have a commercial arm, selling goods, such as fruit and veg, oils, vinegars and chutneys, from local producers and it’s hoped that side may be open before sit-in dining is permitted.

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Spent Grain, opposite the former Jopling's site in John Street.
Spent Grain, opposite the former Jopling's site in John Street.

The name itself is reflective of the business’s aim to forge strong partnerships with fellow city independents. Spent Grain is the by product from brewing and Michael has teamed up with Vaux Brewery in Roker to utilise theirs. He’ll be working with baker Steve Welch from Bread& Bakery in Hylton Riverside to create a house bread with the grain.

Michael already has plenty of connections within the city’s hospitality sector thanks to his successful The Urban Terrace Kitchen deli in St Luke’s Terrace, which he runs with wife Zoë.

Speaking about his first city centre venture, which will create up to 12 new jobs, he said: "We got the keys in July and worked on the renovations with a view to opening in November and, at that time, we hoped we would at least be able to open under Tier 2.

"Now, we’re champing at the bit to have people in.”

Spent Grain will open in John Street in the city centre once restrictions are lifted.

The pair have worked with the existing features of the site, including bare brick walls and a large skylight, and have complemented them with a large open kitchen which people can sit around to see their food being prepared.

At the front of the site, meanwhile, there is a coffee and wine bar where a chocolatier will be making sweet treats.

There is also a large boardroom-style table at the rear for business lunches, surrounded by local artworks from the likes of photographer Michael Baister and artist Steve Kirkwood. With social distancing, the restaurant will serve 44 covers, or 80 in normal service.

Michael has more than 30 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, working as executive chef for Marriott International, executive chef for Longhirst Hall in Morpeth and as chef director for Oldfields.

Michael Jameson at the open kitchen in Spent Grain.

He said: “I want this to be a creative environment where people can eat, drink and network. Where they can eat honest, seasonal food, made using the best, fresh ingredients. We want to celebrate what’s out there.”

Spent Grain will be the latest new business to open at this side of the city centre, which recently saw the opening of Sweet Petite bakery and Fat Unicorn deli as part of the ongoing renovation of Mackie’s Corner, as well new coffee shop CoffeeHaus which shares a unit within Port Independent.

"What’s happening at Mackie’s Corner is fantastic and we already sell Fat Unicorn produce at the deli,” said Michael.

“I often go into CoffeeHaus and they’re great at 808.

The new business had hoped to open in November, but is yet to welcome its first customers.

"There’s a nice food quadrant developing at this end of town and I think once we get back to whatever normal will be, we’ll see a lot more footfall.”

He added: “Never, in my 31 years as a chef, did I think I’d see the industry on its knees like it is now. But what has come out of all of this is that people have been driven to appreciate food more, they’ve been cooking at home more, they’ve tried new things, and they’ve developed a different palate.

"So I think when we come out of this there will be an appetite there to use local restaurants.”

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Diners will be able to see their food being prepared in front of them.
The restaurant is designed with groups as well as solo diners in mind.
There's a boardroom style table for business meetings
The new business has an urban aesthetic